For the first time in its history, the announcement of the Helpmann Awards for 2018 has been divided into two concurrent evening events. The first 20 winners were announced tonight at the Sydney Town Hall. The other 23 will be presented tomorrow at the Capitol Theatre.

Leading the charge at the first event – the 2018 Helpmann Awards Act I, as it has been dubbed – were Muriel’s Wedding The Musical with five awards, followed by Beautiful: The Carole King Musical and Bangarra Dance Theatre’s Bennelong with three each.

Maggie McKenna with Hilary Cole, Helen Dallimore and cast members of Muriel’s Wedding The Musical. Photograph © Lisa Tomasetti

The Act I event was held at an intimate cocktail event at which the awards were presented in the best creative, designer and supporting acting role categories, along with Best Presentation for Children, Best Regional Touring production, and Best Special Event.

The brand new Australian musical, Muriel’s Wedding The Musical, produced by Sydney Theatre Company and Global Creatures, won Best Original Score for Kate Miller-Heidke and Keir Nuttall, Best Music Direction for Isaac Hayward, Best Costume Design for Gabriela Tylesova, Best Choreography in a Musical for Andrew Hallsworth, and Best Sound Design for Michael Waters.

Simon Phillips, who helmed the show through several workshops to the acclaimed, sold-out production, missed out on Best Direction of a Musical with the award going to American director Marc Bruni for Beautiful, produced by Michael Cassel in association with Paul Blake, Sony/ATV Music Publishing and Mike Bosner. Bruni was in Australia for the entire rehearsal process.

Mike McLeish, Josh Piterman, Esther Hannaford, Mat Verevis and Amy Lehpamer in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. Photograph © Joan Marcus

Beautiful also took home two performance awards, with Amy Lehpamer and Mat Verevis winning Best Female and Male Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical for their portrayal of Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann.

Stephen Page won Best Choreography in a Ballet, Dance or Physical Theatre Production for Bangarra Dance Theatre’s Bennelong, which also won awards for Best Scenic Design for Jacob Nash, and Best Lighting Design for Nick Schlieper. Bangarra also won Best Regional Touring Production for its triple bill OUR land people stories.

Beau Dean Riley Smith and Bangarra Dance Theatre performers in Bennelong. Photograph © Daniel Boud

Neil Armfield was awarded Best Direction of an Opera for Hamlet, staged in Adelaide by Glyndebourne Festival and Adelaide Festival in association with the State Opera of South Australia and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. Armfield also directed the world premiere in Glyndebourne. Lorina Gore, who played Ophelia, took home Best Female Performer in a Supporting Role in an Opera.

The award for Best Male Performer in a Supporting Role in an Opera went to Kanen Breen for Pinchgut Opera’s production of Coronation of Poppea.

Best Direction of a Play went to Sarah Goodes for The Children, co-produced by Melbourne and Sydney Theatre Companies. Awards for Best Supporting Actor in a Play went to Mitchell Butel for Mr Burns, A Post-Electric Play, produced by Belvoir and State Theatre Company South Australia, and Anita Hegh for Sydney Theatre Company’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui.

Lorina Gore and Allan Clayton in Hamlet. Photograph © Tony Lewis

Best Special Event went to Taylor Mac: A 24 Decade History of Popular Music, produced across four six-hour marathons, at the Melbourne International Arts Festival (presented by the Festival and Pomegranate Arts), while Best Presentation for Children went to Slingsby’s Emil and the Detectives.

The rest of the 2018 Helpmann Awards will be presented tomorrow at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre.